Oklahoma's $18.6 million mortgage settlement with five big lenders will pay for legal services for people trying to manage a mortgage, avoid foreclosure and keep their homes — no matter the lender — in a new partnership between the state attorney general's office and Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma.
Attorney General Scott Pruitt said Monday that Legal Aid received $1.27 million from the settlement to hire, train and reassign 15 attorneys and seven paralegals to help homeowners with mortgage modifications, refinancing, short sales, housing counseling and navigating the foreclosure process in a program called Resolution Oklahoma.
Attorneys with the nonprofit Legal Aid also will look for unlawful practices by lenders and loan servicers and report misconduct to the Attorney General's Public Protection Unit, Pruitt said.
The attorney general “is now leading the charge, and the cavalry is coming to the rescue,” said Michael Figgins, executive director of Legal Aid. “Legal Aid is in the front line.”
Attorneys from Legal Aid's 20 offices statewide will be getting the word out by going to churches and other community groups, he said.
An initial grant of $50,000 will bolster the Oklahoma Bar Association's Unauthorized Practice of Law Initiative.
“Each day the OBA receives calls from Oklahomans who have been scammed by individuals pretending to be lawyers and offering mortgage assistance and expertise,” the association said in a news release. “Many of these homeowners do not realize they've been defrauded until they are in serious finance situations or have lost their homes. (The grant) will add resources to this program and improve the state's ability to investigate and prosecute criminals who aim to take advantage of Oklahoma families.”